Sumire review - "Why do some days stay in our thoughts forever?"
|
| Sumire

"How things change, even when we want to hold them forever."

It's the little lines like this that really make Sumire shine, both as a game and as a memorable protagonist. In Sumire, you follow the tale of a shy young girl in a Japanese mountain town, slowly discovering what it's like to live a so-called perfect day. While the game is short at just a little over three hours, the whole experience - and all the feels - it made me go through will stay with me for a long, long time.

Table of contents

The story of Sumire

The gorgeous visual novel-slash-choose your own adventure game starts off with Sumire waking up from a dream about her beloved grandmother who recently passed. Sumire feels like her grandmother wants to tell her something, so she's left with a sense of longing about seeing her again. As she mulls over these thoughts in the middle of the night, she stumbles upon a magical flower in her house who promises to fulfill one wish for her in exchange for a wonderful day, and so begins Sumire's enchanted and emotional tale.

Girl talking to a cat

Throughout the game, you'll encounter different townsfolk and magical creatures along the way, and they all remember Sumire's grandmother very fondly. The day seems to be clouded in a surreal mist (or blanketed in a veil of overwhelming sadness, to be honest), almost as if the day is not quite real (but still real enough). The whole story happens in the course of a single day, so you really have to pick the right choices to make each moment count.

Written and directed by Michael Ely, Sumire made me cry - the last time this happened was when I finished Uncharted 4, and that's because I knew the characters and journeyed with them from the very beginning of the franchise. But with Sumire, you get to know her and her world only for a few hours, and already you'll feel like she's always been a part of your life - or at least make you wonder where she's been all this time.

Sumire gameplay and graphics

As Sumire goes about her one magical day, you can interact with items and creatures in the background in a point-and-click-esque manner, picking things up and delivering objects to people just to tick things off your list. Sumire has jotted down what constitutes a perfect day for her in her little notebook, but apart from these main objectives, you can also accept a quest or two from a wayward frog or a lovestruck snake here and there - just be sure to remember their favours as the day only passes by once.

Sumire review perfect day

In particular, I promised a dear scarecrow friend I'd come back for him because he didn't think he'd make it past noon, and when I forgot about my task, I came back to find him dead in my yard - but that's not even the worst blow yet (I'll get to that later).

Choices you make aren't all black and white, either - sometimes, what you might think is the right thing to do actually makes things worse. For example, me helping feed a crane's family somehow ended up with his memory being wiped, leaving him an empty shell with no memory of his own family. It just goes to show you that real life is filled with shades of grey, and there's nothing you can do but roll with the punches.

At the risk of spoiling the beautiful, beautiful story, Sumire needs to face certain realities in her life in order to have a truly wonderful day. She and her ex-best friend Chie have drifted apart, and the boy she's been crushing on is moving away to the big city the next day. Her father left her and her mom simply because he didn't love them anymore, and she somehow has to struggle with her memories of her grandmother and learn to move on without her.

Girl talking about her grandma

It's this kind of bittersweet setting that we find our lovable protagonist in, and it's a bit too much of a burden for a young girl to have to carry. Still, Sumire keeps her innocence on the inside and her heart on her sleeve, making each line of dialogue deeply earnest, thought-provoking, and all-too-heartbreaking at the same time.

What's the appeal?

Sumire made me cry cathartic tears thanks to the brilliant writing and the stirring soundtrack that always seems to be out to get you at every turn (the acoustic background music and the ethereal vocals from the Japanese band TOW are top-notch). The gorgeous painterly visuals aren't helping - they cast everything in an otherworldly and very nostalgic glow, adding to the emotional impact of every scene.

And it's not even the more grandiose things that really got to me - it's the tiny, seemingly insignificant stuff that tugged at my heartstrings and brought on the waterworks. I can't really stress how beautiful this game is inside and out without spoiling the story, but for instance, when one of the townsfolk was talking about his wife, he casually mentioned that they looked at each other across the dinner table one night and realized that there was nothing left to say. It broke my heart into a million little pieces.

Sumire bus stop

Lines like this are littered throughout the entire game, and if this were an actual novel, I would have devoured every single line of prose. Characters are all likable and memorable, and each one has a special interaction with Sumire that hides deep, philosophical wisdom with every encounter. The fact that it all happens in a single day with no way to return makes everything even more bittersweet. Sumire will have to learn to live with her choices and her life - both the good and the bad aspects of it - when the sun sets.

Of course, it's not all about ninjas chopping onions here - Sumire does have lighthearted moments of childhood innocence, such as mini-games with friends and opportunities to go shopping. There are also dark, almost horror-esque moments in the game, which are all part of Sumire's character development and story arc.

mini games

If I could give this game more than a perfect score, I would - there's honestly nothing negative about the game I can think of other than me wishing there was more. But even the game's runtime is already perfect as it is - any longer and it might ruin the impact of Sumire's "perfect day". Suffice it to say that it really moved me in more ways than one, and if you're eager to experience the same thing, you'll carry Sumire's little tale - and the lessons learned from it - long after the credits roll.

Sumire review - "Why do some days stay in our thoughts forever?"

Sumire is a short but sweet visual novel adventure that's beautiful inside and out. The ethereal soundtrack and artwork go perfectly well with the superb writing, and at just 3-4 hours for each playthrough, it's definitely well worth the time and effort.
Score